Abstract: The purpose of the Roman indicia publica (as described by legal, rhetorical, and philosophical texts and even the name of the institution) was to determine whether or not defendants had violated the various “criminal” statutes which established them. Cicero's reports of the outcome of real cases suggest a popular expectation that jurors ordinarily attempted to carry out this task. The proliferation of distinct formal charges over time and the existence of jokes about orators fooling jurors confirm this suggestion. We are thus discouraged from imagining collusion between parties and jurors in which the formal charge is understood by all to be a pretext for a competition of oratorical skill or social standing. Roman jurors wanted to believe in their verdicts. Advocates, of course, did not simply tell the truth. Rather, they responded to popular expectations by going out of their way to emphasize the (purported) truth of their speeches.
- Copyright 1997, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric